“Ever since I came to South Africa and commentated on both the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the much missed Rapport Tour of South Africa, I have been waiting for the day when South Africa would again use the opportunity to showcase this beautiful country.

“For 22 years I was the race director of the Round Britain Milk Race. It was at the time the longest running sponsorship in any sport and the Milk Marketing Board supported it for 36 years. During that time it projected British cycling at its very best and paved the way for hundreds of young riders to make their way to a professional career. It also became loved by the British public who watched daily in their tens of thousands. Above all the organization was well respected around the World and finding the best riders to take part was easy.”

According to Liggett, every country needs a National Tour because it is the shop window in which the best on offer can be displayed. “In South Africa there is nothing better to display than the South African flora and fauna. As far as cycling is concerned, it is important that the home riders should be exposed to the best the World has to offer, because this is the way to improve and, if you entertain as a host, the offer will be reciprocated by the world at large.

“So, after a break of two years, a National Tour is in the making and this time it has a good chance of success for many years to come.”

What makes for a good road cycling tour?

“First and foremost, the race needs good sponsorship support, and all the signs are there that this is happening. It also needs a good route that is not too ambitious and will make a good race. I think this first edition of the Mzansi Tour has a great route. And, finally, the organization must produce a faultless event that will make the riders and officials want more of the same in 2014. The organizers should leave no stone unturned to make the event a great success. That holds the key to success."

“To be honest, it could be difficult to persuade a top field of riders to take part in an event in April, which is the time when the European races are packing out the calendar. But not everything is controllable in a crowded international calendar, so the gamble is well worth taking. If the intention is to offer riders a preparation period before the summer cycling in Europe and the Americas, then February, in other words during the South African summer, will always be the preferred date.

“First things first and now it is important just to get the race off the ground. It can be fine-tuned later.”

Why is Phil Liggett so passionate about South African cycling?

“It has been very rewarding and satisfying to watch the progress of South African cycling over 20 years. It was also an immense pleasure to commentate on the first stage victory by a South African in the Tour de France in 2007, when Robbie Hunter made history by winning in Montpellier. Robbie has now ridden the Tour nine times and others, such as Darryl Impey last year, are beginning to follow in his wheel tracks. These riders desperately need the vital steppingstone of a National Tour to begin their route to the top.

“South Africa is already at the top in mountain biking and well represented in BMX. Hopefully South Africa will soon get an opportunity to send a team to the Tour de France.

“The Mzansi Tour has arrived and, unlike its predecessors, this one must not fail. It is the final piece in the jigsaw that will give a great country the chance to play its part in a sport that has never been more popular around the World.”

STAGES

Stage one, April 17: 163km. Kruger Park, Kruger Gate to Nelspruit

Stage two, April 18. 184km. Lydenburg to Middelburg

Stage three, April 19: 144km. Witbank to Mamelodi

Stage four, April 20: 163km. Hartebeespoort to Pretoria Union Buildings, via Tom Jenkins Drive.

Stage five April 21: 117km. Monte Casino to Monte Casino

For more information on the Mzansi Tour, visit www.mzansitour.co.za.

Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/mzansitour

Follow us on Twitter @twitter]mzansi_Tour[/twitter]